A man is walking through the grocery store with a screaming, flailing toddler in his shopping cart. The child is inconsolable, and the man is quietly repeating phrases like, “Shh…Keep calm, Charlie. Don’t get excited, Charlie. Don’t make a fuss, Charlie. It’s going to be okay, Charlie.”
A lady in the produce aisle, who has been watching all along, says to the man, “You are to be commended for your patience with little Charlie!” The man answers, “Lady, I’m Charlie! His name is Tommy!”
That old joke isn’t really a joke. It reveals how we most often try to keep our wits about us when our surroundings are out of control. We talk to ourselves. We go inward. We try to “get our minds” right, hoping to find internal strength or peace. Yet, few of us have the adequate inner mettle we need, for we are dreadful conversational partners, and even worse personal therapists.
The solution is “going out of our minds,” so to speak. Though people use that phrase to describe their feelings of hysteria, it’s actually the only way to stay sane, because our minds can betray us. Our personal conclusions, our very thoughts, cannot always be trusted. As the Hebrew prophet said, “Our hearts are hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.”
Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Or translated differently, “Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” We have to change the way we think, the way we talk to ourselves, and access a Power greater than our own neurotic ramblings.
The place to begin is observation: Just look at what most of us call “thinking.” It’s actually a self-centered chewing of the cud. That’s a crude farming example, but true all the same. A cow swallows grass, but can’t digest it immediately. It passes into the “rumen,” as in rumination, where the food is held and moistened.
The animal, finding a comfortable place to sit in the shade, then regurgitates the contents of the rumen where it can be chewed and chewed, until finally it can pass into the stomach providing the nourishment the cow needs. Likewise, it’s no wonder that most of us can’t find the strength we need from our thoughts. It’s all mental rumination, but nothing is absorbed.
We chew and we chew. We worry and we fret. We regurgitate our anxieties. We roll a problem over and over in our minds, or in our “prayers,” resulting only in clouded thoughts and confused emotions. We sit paralyzed, and what should strengthen and fortify us, never does.
Truly, it is all “in our minds,” for that is where our answers are found, and where the battle for serenity is waged: We need a better, healthier way of thinking, a brand new way of thinking. We must “come to believe that only a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.”
Photo by Hassan Prottoy